The cabbie and The King

An invitation card of the visit King Edward VIII made to the Royal Naval barracks, June 1936, the year he abdicated.   Picture: Michael Warren
An invitation card of the visit King Edward VIII made to the Royal Naval barracks, June 1936, the year he abdicated. Picture: Michael Warren
Passchendaele. Picture: Imperial War Museum

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Over the past few weeks I have been writing about Edward VIII passing through the city before sailing into exile in 1936.

Although most who were involved in his going have passed on they have left memories to their relatives which are quite fascinating I think.

Edward VIII's coronation medal which was struck for his coronation which reads:-' '"Ascended to the throne, 20th January 1936 to commemorate the coronation of Kind Edward VIII at Westminster Abbey, 12th May 1937"   Picture: Michael Warren

Edward VIII's coronation medal which was struck for his coronation which reads:-' '"Ascended to the throne, 20th January 1936 to commemorate the coronation of Kind Edward VIII at Westminster Abbey, 12th May 1937" Picture: Michael Warren

Julie Ford emailed me for her mother Mrs Jean Upham to tell me that her late father Frederick Downer, a master baker and confectioner told her that he and a mate were taking a break one night when working for Campion’s bakers.

At about 2am they were in Kingston Road having a cigarette when a large black car approached them.

A uniformed chauffeur got out of the car and asked the two men the way to the dockyard. He said he had lost his way and the two men explained the way to get to the dockyard. The car had darkened windows but jean’s father said that he could see a shadowy figure in the back.

The following morning they heard that the king had abdicated and could only assume that it was his driver they had shown the way to.

Edward VIII's coronation medal which was struck for his coronation which reads:-' '"Ascended to the throne, 20th January 1936 to commemorate the coronation of Kind Edward VIII at Westminster Abbey, 12th May 1937"    Picture: Michael Warren

Edward VIII's coronation medal which was struck for his coronation which reads:-' '"Ascended to the throne, 20th January 1936 to commemorate the coronation of Kind Edward VIII at Westminster Abbey, 12th May 1937" Picture: Michael Warren

Chris Grant of Copnor tells me that his late grandfather Bert Hedger has actually written down what had occurred.

He was a taxi driver for Citax who had several depots all over the city.

He wrote ‘One night while working for Citax in 1936 I was sent to the Queens Hotel to pick up a Commander Dawson and take him to his ship HMS Forrester.

‘When we arrived in the dockyard the Forrester was lying outboard of HMS Faulkner and outboard of her was HMS Fury. They were all ‘F’ class destroyers.

‘I knew the commander well as I often picked him up and he invited me on board for a quick drink in the wardroom.

‘I drank up and said my goodbyes and was on the upper deck ready to walk down the gangway when the quartermaster held my arm and called out ‘‘Officer coming aboard’’. I stepped back and the officer coming aboard passed by. The quartermaster thanked me and I arrived at my car and drove to main gate.

‘As I approached there were pressmen from various newspapers and I had to stop as they were all over my car.

‘They all asked if I had seen the king. I told them what had happened and then returned to the depot in Hay Street.

‘The next morning I realised what was happening and it was the former king that had come aboard.’

I do not doubt that all these stories have ‘fact’ attached to them but there does seem to be some differential in the times of the duke passing through as it was 2am when the bakers talked to the chauffeur. I cannot see the taxi driver picking up a commander from the hotel at 2am, and yet another time ‘zone’ comes from Michael Warren who tells me that his father told him that the former king went into the Royal George pub in Queen Street. Surely the pub would have been closed at 11pm at the latest.

Mike sent me some interesting items though and I show them here.

Firstly there is a Coronation medal and the wording states: Ascended to the Throne 20th January 1936 to commemorate the coronation of King Edward VIII at Westminster Abbey, 12 May 1937.

There is also in invitation card to the visit of King Edward VIII to the Royal Naval Barracks June 1936.

It appears that several thousand Coronation mugs had been made. The dilemma being that the mugs were all made for Edward and not for King George VI.